Spring Breakers (18, 94 mins)

Director: Harmony Korine


Plenty teen comedies have flirted with the setting of spring break, the annual tradition that sees students from all over the United States descend on beach resorts for a week of partying and carousing.

But none have had the gumption to delve so deeply into its heart of darkness as Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers, piercing the bubble of illusion and delusion surrounding the pilgrimage and laying bare the American dream.

For a while it doesn't provide main characters, just a parade of carefree students looking forward to their spring break blowout in Florida, before settling on a group of friends (Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson and Rachel Korine) who are struggling to come up with enough cash to fund their trip, and not afraid to turn to crime to do it.

These aren't people to warm to, but nor should they be. This is a savaging of an anti-culture that exists for fleeting gratification, put together with such bravado and enough on its mind to overcome its despicable leads. It has the intelligence to make salient points about the emptiness of their existence, as they have their fun in Florida's answer to Pinocchio's Pleasure Island, without ever having to pay for it.

The girls' encounter with a gangster called Alien, played with demented glee by an almost unrecognisable James Franco, takes events spinning off into even more deranged territory, the pervading air of danger increasing even though it's often very funny indeed, part crime spree and part candy-coated farce.

This isn't spring break as imagined by kids on spring break. This is a cautionary tale, an annihilation of hedonism and a lament to the fleeting nature of youth, sharply filmed, raucously edited and bursting with satirical malevolence.

It's certainly not going to be to everyone's taste, but Spring Breakers is stunning cinema for those on its wavelength.


All Things to All Men (15, 84 mins)

Director: George Isaac

So similar is this overegged cops and robbers thriller to the recent Welcome to the Punch that it wouldn't have come as a huge shock to see that film's crew setting up in the corner of the frame.

Rufus Sewell is the detective on the trail of Toby Stephens' jewel thief who enlists the help of Gabriel Byrne's kingpin, who sees Stephens as a rival for his turf. It's reasonably admirable in the way we're chucked straight in to the middle of this situation without any fuss or preamble, and for a little while it looks like something interesting could be developing.

It also does that thing Punch did so well of making London look sensational, but it comes unstuck when trying to live up to its title in a second half that becomes increasingly desperate for attention. A sprawling cast gets sucked in to a labyrinthine narrative driven by an overbearing score, and alarm bells go off when a plot point seems to reference LA Confidential. When it actually has the gall to follow through on it, it becomes glaringly obvious that this is a movie with nothing more to offer.


A Late Quartet (15, 106 mins)

Director: Yaron Zilberman


A dream cast are at the top of their game in this delightful drama that centres on the members of a renowned string quartet.

After 20 years together they're facing the end of the road due to the illness of one of the musicians (Christopher Walken) and the marital troubles faced by Philip Seymour Hoffman and Catherine Keener. Though sombre and low key, this makes for captivating drama, with the Beethoven they play used as a metaphor for the messy and complicated nature of life. I

t really gets to grips with the depth and colour of music, and as the layered and soulful drama ramps up with further delving into their personal lives, the results are funny, moving and wholly captivating.


The Odd Life of Timothy Green (U, 105 mins)

Director: Peter Hedges

There's a scene in the middle of this horrific family fantasy in which ten year old Timothy Green (CJ Adams) and his adoptive parents (Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton) "rock out" in front of family and friends.

It's eye-gouging stuff, representative of the cloying sentimentality that pervades a film with nowhere to go beyond its initial, ill-conceived idea, in which Timothy comes to the childless couple fully formed, albeit with leaves growing from his legs, after they wish for a son and bury a box in the garden containing traits they'd want him to have.

But more than that, it's sickly and manipulative, all peppy music and dramatic inertia, and Timothy has no personality beyond that foisted on him. If the premise conjures thoughts of something Roald Dahl may have written, make no mistake you'll find nothing of the imagination or purpose of his stories, and next to the pantheon of great family films, this is little more than an embarrassment.


Dark Skies (15, 97 mins)

Director: Scott Charles Stewart


Taking the Paranormal Activity template and applying it to extraterrestrial shenanigans rather than ghostly ones does little to enliven this tepid thriller. Keri Russell, her husband and two sons make up the suburban family who at first think they have an intruder, with the usual stuff like furniture seemingly rearranging itself and the youngest boy revealing he's been talking to the "Sandman".

It's a slow-build, modestly budgeted effort that's essentially a feature length X-Files episode, with only one or two effective spooky moments. Its biggest asset is the threat to the strong family unit that develops, but though the situation is fairly new, the dullness and the formulaic structure remains and the payoff is nothing like satisfying enough. The film opens with a quote from Arthur C. Clarke - "Two possibilities exist: either we are alone in the Universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying". And that's as scary as Dark Skies gets.


See it if you liked: Paranormal Activity, Signs, Take Shelter